Rotenberg, U present first

Liz Kohman

University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg argued the University’s first Supreme Court case Monday, marking the pinnacle of a lawsuit that has endured six years of court appearances.

“It was challenging. It was exciting. I’ll remember it forever,” Rotenberg said.

The case, which began as an age discrimination claim in 1995, explores state versus federal powers in a provision passed by Congress.

Rotenberg argued the law infringes on states’ rights. The provision provides a 30-day window for cases to be filed in state courts if they are dismissed from federal courts.

“The justices were knowledgeable about all aspects of the case,” Rotenberg said. “I think it went well.”

Howard Bolter, a lawyer from Borkon, Ramstead, Mariani, Fishman and Carp, Ltd., took on the original claim made by University employees Lance Raygor and James Goodchild. He argued Congress’ law doesn’t infringe on the state’s sovereign immunity.

“I feel good about (the argument),” Bolter said.

But he said he isn’t sure what the court will decide. “It’s hard to read where they’re going,” he said.

Both lawyers had never appeared before the Supreme Court. Each side had 30 minutes to present its oral arguments and answer questions from the Supreme Court justices. The arguments began at 10 a.m. and ended at 11:04 a.m.

Twenty-four states filed briefs on behalf of the University. Solicitor General Ted Olson, the National Governors Association, the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National Conference of State Legislators also filed briefs in the University’s favor.

“We had a lot of support,” Rotenberg said. “I think it was very helpful for us.”

The Supreme Court justices will announce a decision on the arguments before spring.

If they rule in favor of the University, the decision made by the Minnesota Supreme Court will be upheld, and Raygor and Goodchild’s age discrimination case will never be heard. If the justices rule in favor of Raygor and Goodchild, their case will be heard in state courts.

While Bolter might not agree with Rotenberg about the case, both said their Supreme Court experience was challenging.

“It was an amazing experience,” Bolter said. “You’re dealing with the best legal minds in the country.”

 

Liz Kohman welcomes comments at [email protected]